Studios are a popular choice for renters on a budget. But figuring out how to live in a studio apartment without sacrificing style or quality of life is challenging. How do you store all your belongings? Where do you even put the bed? We’ve come up with some valuable studio apartment living tips to help you re-imagine small spaces.
What is a studio apartment?
A studio is a one-room apartment, meaning no doors separate any part of it except for the bathroom. Your living room, kitchen, and bedroom areas all share the same space. A studio is also known as an efficiency or bachelor apartment.
What are the challenges of living in a studio?
Because of their smaller size and the lack of walls as dividers, studio apartments present a challenge for renters who:
- Cook intricate meals. Many studio apartments have a small kitchen with limited counter space and smaller appliances. Some studios have only a kitchenette, so you may not have an oven or even a stovetop, limiting your cooking to microwavable meals.
- Host family and friends. Whether you want your parents to stay at your place while they’re in town or you want to throw a dinner party, doing so in a studio is tough. You won’t have a guest room for visitors to sleep in, and you may not even have a big enough table to seat many guests.
- Own a lot of belongings. Even if it’s just you in your studio apartment, if you own a lot of stuff, you’ll feel cramped. On top of that, there won’t be a room where you can keep your belongings out of sight, except for maybe a small closet.
- Participate in sports and outdoor activities. If you’re into biking, surfing, camping, and the like, living in a studio is tricky because you won’t have much space to store your equipment. That’s where having a storage unit comes in handy. You could, for example, store your paddle board and kayak in the storage unit for most of the year until you need it during summertime.
Speaking of the challenges of living in a studio, let’s review some of the layout challenges.
Studio Apartment Layout Challenges
Most studio apartments fall somewhere between 300 and 400 square feet in size. There are variations of three general layouts:
- Option 1: living area with a bathroom, kitchen, and closet off of it on one side
- Option 2: a living area with a kitchen and small dining room on one side and a closet and bathroom on the other
- Options 3: a living area with a kitchenette on one of its walls
Here’s a simple visual of studio apartment floor plans:
The following advice applies regardless of which layout you end up with.
1. Create the illusion of a bedroom area.
One way to solve a studio’s lack of a bedroom is to create your own—or at least the illusion of one.
Use a curtain, shelving unit, or traditional room divider to separate your bed from the rest of the room, creating a private “bedroom” to sleep in peace. If your apartment is on the small side, a divider might not be feasible, making the space feel cramped.
Instead of a divider, the following tips can help create a dedicated space for sleeping:
- Make your bed every morning. This simple step is a fast way to make your entire space feel less cluttered or chaotic.
- Anchor your bed on an area rug. A rug is an inexpensive way to divide a space visually without taking up any vertical space. Make sure the rug is the right size for your bed.
- Consider a Murphy bed. If you can’t stand seeing your bed during the day, look into some transitional furniture like a daybed or Murphy bed. As a bonus, it saves space!
2. Pick a furniture layout based on your lifestyle.
Create a space to hang out with friends, watch TV, and work on your laptop. To do this, think multipurpose. Instead of buying a desk, a TV stand, and a bookshelf, install wall shelving that you can use for all three. Instead of buying a huge, bulky couch, get a couple of smaller armchairs. But before you purchase anything, think of how you’re going to live in the space.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I need to work in this space? If so, how can I fit in a desk or use another area (like a dining table) to serve this purpose?
- Realistically, how many people will I have over for get-togethers? Make sure you have space for everyone to sit. If you only have one or two people over, a larger two-seater sofa should suffice. If you have more, consider a smaller couch, floor poufs, and accent chairs.
- Am I making the space do too much? Is there some functionality you could give up to make your apartment seem more streamlined? Perhaps you don’t need to have a home gym in the corner. Maybe you can work at a coffee shop instead of in your apartment. Sometimes, a compromise can help your home feel more serene.
3. Store your clothing out in the open.
Sadly, some studio apartment closets are too small to contain a whole wardrobe. The best way to remedy that tiny closet is to create your own. Hide a standing clothes rack behind a curtain to give your clothes a place. Or, let your clothes serve as décor by hanging them creatively out in the open. Use ceiling-mounted clothes racks, or try to get creative with DIY clothes racks for a really unique look.
If this open clothing storage idea makes you cringe, consider the following tips:
- Research capsule wardrobes. Investing in a capsule wardrobe will help you create more storage space, as capsule wardrobes are highly curated. Essentially, you’ll only own clothing you enjoy looking at on a rack out in the open.
- Keep up with your laundry. If you’re lazy with housework, living in a studio apartment will begin to look like a nightmare. Before moving in, make sure you master the art of household chores. Doing your laundry diligently will do two things: First, it will prevent piles of laundry clutter on the floor of your small space. Second, it will dissuade you from buying excess clothing. People with too many clothes tend to wait longer to do their laundry. Instead of washing their shirts when they run out, they might just buy another one.
- Experiment with styling. When you don’t own a lot of clothing, you can get creative. Can you wear the same shirt twice a week but make it look different each time? Try variations of the same staple items.
4. Declutter kitchen utensils and shop for groceries often.
In a studio apartment, your kitchen will probably be one of two things: a strip of cabinets against one wall of the living room or a room so small there’s hardly enough space to open the refrigerator door all the way. How can you make it work? By considering the following.
Only buy essential kitchen utensils.
Remember that you don’t really need a tofu press, and twelve different knives aren’t necessary. Don’t let your cabinets fill up with boxes of pasta and cans of vegetables that you’re never going to use.
Only buy food you’ll eat within a few weeks.
Whatever you do, do not let kitchen messes build up. Wash the dishes as you use them, throw out expired food right away, and wipe down all your surfaces after cooking.
How do you cook in a studio without a kitchen?
Some studio apartments come with nothing more than a kitchenette consisting of a sink, minifridge, microwave, and some counter space. Cooking in a place like that is a challenge—but doable! Just follow these tips:
- Purchase a cooktop or hotpot. These are the kinds you plug into the wall so you can cook on your countertop, usually on a single burner. It operates very similar to a stovetop, just much smaller.
- Plan for air circulation. Studio apartments are small, and the entire space is one room, so when you cook, those smells will be everywhere in your apartment. For that reason, be sure to open a window (preferably one near the kitchen area) whenever you cook. You can also use a HEPA air purifier to eliminate those smells more quickly!
- Get a toaster oven. Don’t be bummed if your studio doesn’t come with a full oven; you’ll be surprised by how much you can cook with a toaster oven! These are smaller ovens that fit on the countertop. Sure, you may be unable to cook the Thanksgiving turkey in them, but they’re large enough to bake a dozen cookies, a lasagna, or a meatloaf.
How do I prepare to live in a studio apartment?
If you’re getting ready to move into a studio apartment, the main priority is to get rid of as much stuff as possible—especially if you’re moving from a house or larger apartment. You’re simply not going to have enough space to store those belongings.
Does the thought of downsizing stress you out? Don’t worry. You can always put your things into a storage unit. That way, they’re kept safe until you need them again.
How do you organize a small studio apartment?
Living in a small space where most things are out in the open, you must master the art of organization. Here are some ideas for organizing a small studio apartment:
- Wall shelving. Installing shelves on your walls is a quick and straightforward way to take advantage of unused vertical space.
- Under-the-bed storage. You’ve got all that space underneath your bed frame—use it! This is a great place to store seasonal clothing that you don’t need right now. Invest in storage containers with wheels so you can easily roll them out from under the bed.
- Under-the-sink storage. This is another place where a lot of vertical space gets wasted. Put tiered shelves underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks to store cleaning supplies out of sight.
- Drawer organizers. You’ll probably be throwing many things into your drawers to keep them hidden, but you don’t want the drawers to become cluttered. To prevent this, get small bins to compartmentalize your drawers.
For young people living on their own for the first time, studio apartments are ideal because of their affordability. However, it’s definitely challenging cramming everything into 300 square feet. As long as you remember to be creative and stay organized, you’ll figure out how to live in a studio apartment in no time.
If these studio apartment living tips inspired you, check out these articles for more guidance:
- 10 Innovative Clothes Storage Ideas When You Have No Closet
- 13 Tips for the Most Organized Kitchen Ever
Update: This post originally published on June 15, 2017. It was revised on September 2, 2020 & June 28, 2023 with more information.